Multifamily Industry Frontline – The Abandoned Child Syndrome
If you are reading this on our website you know that MY COACH is an online training program for the frontline of the multifamily housing industry. I am very proud of the quality of the content and the fact that I personally touch my students by phone and e-mail communication. Recently, a new participant posted a comment thanking me profusely for sending her an e-mail. I called her in response. She said, “I feel as though I’m not very important to my company. You made me feel like I matter.”
Wow! That’s sad. The person is a manager at a very good company that’s growing fast and providing new jobs and beautiful affordable housing. But their communities are geographically dispersed with supervisors whose plates are overflowing.
The more time I spend with frontline professionals, the guiltier I feel, and I’ll tell you why. We hire some of the loveliest, kindest, most enthusiastic people to stand at the front doors of our properties. We give them initial training, hand them a procedures manual, and orient them about our company culture. Then we–their supervisors–scurry back to work putting out the fires that blaze around us.
We abandon them. It isn’t our fault. We are just too busy to do much more than fix the stuff that is broken. In my role as an owner or property manager, even when I visited properties, my time was devoted to maintenance, staffing, collection issues, inspections–and a crisis or two. Rarely did I spend any substantive time coaching the people who were doing most important job – leasing and retaining customers. I’ve walked in the shoes of frontline staff and I know how it feels to work at and run a community.
These folks work hard. They deal with prospective customers, existing customers, vendors and the like. They collect the money, market our product and problem-solve the best they can. They work almost entirely on their own, but keep us apprised through regular reports, electronic data, phone calls and e-mails. If occupancy lags or budgets bloat, we recommend corrective action.
But where are we when they need a pat on the back, a bit of mentoring or a little recognition for their daily contributions? Just as I was, we are often too busy, I suspect. Not surprisingly, their initial zeal wanes and we have high turnover. Personnel working at affordable housing communities may have the greatest need for personal attention. They often have older product, more problems, tight budgets and vacancy challenges that they’re not always prepared to handle. More than one of my colleagues has admitted they only visit some properties twice a year.
I’m no exception. I liken my own behavior to how I functioned as a mother. My first child was heave- sent. He never fussed. You could take him anywhere without disruption. My second child was plagued with nearly incurable ear infections. Allergic or resistant to all but one antibiotic, he was in constant pain and could rarely be left untended. He got everyone’s attention. while his angelic brother managed to amuse himself with books and toys in his room. They both became fine adults but I could have done better as a mom.
Our managers, leasing agents and other frontline staff could use a bit more attention. They love training. They want to better themselves and do the best job for you. They want to be recognized when they do something right, and not just when they fail to successfully perform a task.
It is my hope that MY COACH will help to fill this void. It wasn’t intended to replace, but rather support. upper management.
I’ve finally found my niche in life as a frontline coach. I don’t have to deal any longer with the clogged toilets or the leaky ceiling or the party animals in apartment 5B. I just teach the best leasing and retention techniques, share wisdom, motivate change, and recognize achievement–and I love it.